Saturday, November 23, 2013


Big anniversaries of big events, good and bad, always encourage remembrances. The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is exactly that sort of event.

But sometimes when there’s a special remembrance in the news, I say nothing. It’s not necessarily that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I don’t have anything to add.

I struggled mightily to come up with something to say, but the thing is, I have no memory of the assassination. I was four years old, so I don’t remember much of anything at all from that year. My mother frequently told me she was in the FW Woolworth in our town when news of the assassination broke. It seemed important to her to re-share that over the years, but I couldn’t really relate since I have no idea where I was or how I found out. I do remember bits of the funeral, but I don’t know how much of that is from my actual memory and how much comes from my seeing film of it over the years.

This uncertainty of memory is probably a common thing among people who were quite young when an historic event happens. Blogger Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God., who is my age, also wonders about his memory of that time: “Do I really remember all that drama or have my mom's stories sort of insinuated themselves into a false memory?”

On the other hand, Roger Green, who’s a little older than me, does have memories of the events, and he wrote about them. He wrote, “A lot of households I visited, especially after the shootings, had pictures on the walls, and the only ones that weren’t family members were of JFK and Jesus Christ.” I don’t think I’ve read that anywhere before. This is the sort of thing I prefer to read—people’s actual memories—because it’s personal and more “real”.

It’s also the way I like to write on this blog about remembrances of historic events from my lifetime. I talk about my personal connection or memories, if any, and maybe my reflections and my—oh, how I hate this word—analysis. What I don’t want to do is merely recite events that people could just as easily read on Wikipedia or whatever.

But what should I say when I don’t really remember much of anything about the events 50 years ago? I note the significance, think about what might have happened if JFK had lived, that sort of thing. But all of that has been talked about endlessly for 50 years.

Remembering the past is important—I frequently say that. Sometimes, though, we have to rely on others to tell us about events we lived through. And sometimes, I think, it’s best to leave it at that.

Update: My friend Jason has posted his memories of the assassination, and I found them interesting, too. He's a few months younger than I am, but he remembers so much more than I do. I think—but certainly don't know—that I must have heard the news indirectly. My parents were both Republican and may not have been as moved as others were, certainly there was nothing like what Jason described.

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